CERB or CEWS: Which Federal Aid is Right for You?

Apr 03, 2020

Posted by
April van Ert
Director, Communications & Stakeholder Engagement


If you are a REALTOR® trying to understand whether you should apply for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) (due to launch April 6) or the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) (launch details unavailable) there are two questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you self-employed?
  • Have you incorporated as Personal Real Estate Corporations (PREC) and receive a wage from your PREC? 

Are you self-employed?

If you are a self-employed Realtor, without additional sources of salaried income and you have stopped working because of COVID-19 impacts, you are eligible for CERB. COVID-19 impacts include loss of job or income, illness or quarantine, providing care to an individual who is sick or in quarantine or providing care to a child due to school or daycare closures.

You must also:

  • reside in Canada and be over the age of 15,
  • have stopped working because of COVID-19 and have not voluntarily quit your job,
  • have received income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of application, and
  • be or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period. For subsequent benefit periods, you must expect to have no employment income.

Read the government’s guide to CERB here.

Have you incorporated as a Personal Real Estate Corporation (PREC) and receive a wage from your PREC? 

If you have incorporated as a Personal Real Estate Corporation (PREC) and receive a wage from your PREC, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program may be worth pursuing, particularly if you have seen a drop in your income but not a complete halt.

This program provides up to a 75 per cent wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, retroactive to March 15, 2020 if they have seen a drop of at least 30 per cent in their revenue. Eligible employers include individuals, taxable corporations and partnerships consisting of eligible employers. For more information on this program, visit the government’s website.

However, this is not to say that if you have a PREC you will be ineligible for CERB. Unfortunately, at the time of writing there are no hard and fast guidelines on this. Your best bet is to talk to an accountant if you are uncertain which programs you’ll qualify for.

Even if you’re not yet sure whether you’ll apply for CERB, sign up for an online account with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA My Account) today, as you’ll need that to apply and it can take up to 10 days to receive a security code. Find out more here.


The Canadian Real Estate Association (CREA) has created a great infographic that outlines the differences between the two aid programs – you can check it out here. You’ll also find important details on how to apply for CERB to ensure your application can be reviewed as quickly as possible.

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